Exploring University Learning Goals: In-Depth Look at Communication Scaffolding of Rigor and Assessment in the Humanities

Exploring University Learning Goals: In-Depth Look at Communication Scaffolding of Rigor and Assessment in the Humanities


Within a university’s general education humanities sequence, a scaffolding of rigor and assessment must be integrated in each class prior to the student embarking on the coursework for their specific major.  To ensure students are engaged in their academic journey, the curriculum within each sequence must be aligned and further challenge the student with gradually advanced levels of critical thinking, writing, and assessment (Ewell, 1991). Therefore, the University of Phoenix implemented University Learning Goals (ULG) to facilitate academic proficiencies to enhance scholarship within a student’s chosen major. In Boyer’s (1990) model, integration and application of one’s scholarship is essential to acquiring new knowledge based on previous academic coursework. Thereby, developing a connection between increasingly higher level of understanding and competence to current and future classes. Thus, the role of a university is to continue the sequential process of developing and implementing curriculum where learning and applying the course content is rigorous and in a manner that “uses language to effectively foster learning” (Moser, Ream, & Braxton, 2016, p.6). Students who are able to directly apply a continuum of scaffolding scholarship academically should be able to increase their exploration of knowledge in their chosen major and profession by “integrating ideas and connecting thoughts to action” (Boyer, 1990, p.77). Therefore, a program of study needs to be designed that is demanding and relevant, building upon prior scholarship; ultimately, providing a sense of academic and personal accomplishment and satisfaction for the student (Kanat-Maymon, Benjamin, Stavsky, Shoshani, & Roth, 2015).


The University Learning Goals (ULG) focus on skill sets students will develop during their degree program to demonstrate academic competency. The identified skills essential to the student’s personal, academic and professional success are centered in five main themes of professional competence and values, critical thinking and problem solving, communication, information utilization, and collaboration (W. Chun, personal communication, February 9, 2017). Faculty from the Bay Area campus reviewed current general education humanities courses, in addition to business and nursing, based on three of the ULGs: critical thinking and problem solving, communication, and information utilization. The findings of this study specifically examined the university learning goal of communication. Within the study, one nursing, two business, and six humanities courses were reviewed for scaffolding of knowledge, integration of course content, rigor, and assessment. The humanities courses selected were those courses most commonly taken by students during the first two years of an undergraduate degree program. The content of the data was analyzed to determine a continuum of skills to support the communication ULG.  Preliminary findings of this study indicate a lack of increased rigor in general communication skills and variety of methodologies to support and assess the ULG during the first two years of the undergraduate program. Effective communication, written and oral, is at the heart of an exemplary degree program; affording students the ability to fully develop their potential both academically and professionally. Beyond presenting the results of this study, the researcher will also seek audience engagement through the discussion of the research implications.



Boyer, E. L. (1990). Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. New York, NY: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching with Jossey-Bass.

              Ewell, P. T. (1991). Chapter 3: To capture the ineffable: New forms of assessment in higher Education. Review of Research in Education, 17(1), 75-125.

Kanat-Maymon, Y., Benjamin, M., Stavsky, A., Shoshani, A., & Roth, G. (2015). The role of basic need fulfillment in academic dishonesty: A self-determination theory perspective. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 43, 1-9.

Moser, D., Ream, T., & Braxton, J. (2016). Expanded Edition of Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate.  New York, NY: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching with Jossey-Bass.




University of Phoenix
Dr. Cheryl Burleigh
Presentation Date: 
Friday, July 21, 2017
Event or Conference: 
KWBA Annual Symposium 2017 Vision to Venture
Presentation Type: 
Paper Presentation
Boyer's Domain: 
Presentation Attachment(s): 
Presentation Location: 
Tempe Mission Palms Hotel
60 East 5th Street
Tempe, AZ 85281
United States